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MIT and Elsevier

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Why MIT ended its contract with Elsevier

MIT has long been a leader in sharing its research and scholarship openly with the world. In the face of unprecedented global challenges, equitable and open access to knowledge is more critical than ever.

For several months, the MIT Libraries had been in discussions with Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of scholarly journals in the world, about a new journals contract. Guided by the principles of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts, MIT Libraries sought a contract that would reflect the Institute’s values and needs and preserve our ability to share MIT research openly with the world.

Despite our best efforts, including agreeing to a six-month extension of our current contract to provide Elsevier time to develop an offer for us based on principles we shared with them in August 2019, Elsevier was unable to present a proposal that aligned with the framework. After months of good faith negotiations, it became clear that Elsevier was not able to meet our needs, so we ended negotiations at the conclusion of our six-month extension.

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Background on the negotiations

The MIT Libraries have been using the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts to guide negotiations with scholarly publishers since October 2019. Developed in collaboration with the MIT Committee on the Library System (CLS) and the Ad Hoc Task Force on Open Access to MIT’s Research, the framework affirms the overarching principle that control of scholarship and its dissemination should reside with scholars and their institutions. It aims to ensure that scholarly research outputs are openly and equitably available to the broadest possible audience while providing valued services to the MIT community.

More than 100 institutions endorsed the MIT Framework in recognition of its potential to advance open scholarship and the public good. Starting in November 2019, the CLS, led by chair Roger Levy, associate professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences,  held information sessions with departments throughout the Institute on open access, the framework, and ongoing negotiations with scholarly publishers, including Elsevier, and received widespread support for the framework.

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